The constant rain failed to dampen the spirit of over 200 Bristolians including civic leaders and refugees taking part in a ‘Walk of Sanctuary to celebrate humanity and diversity’ through the city centre on International Human Rights Day, Saturday 10 December
Equipped with umbrellas, raincoats and a variety of creative placards, people weaved their way through the streets of Bristol, accompanied by the joyful sounds of The Ambling Band.
Jo Benefield, one of the key organisers of the walk from City of Sanctuary said: “It was a really exhilarating and joyous occasion – absolutely inspiring, with so many people of all ages and from all different walks of life. As we walked through the city we received a good reception from the public for our celebration of Bristol as a City of Sanctuary and Diversity that welcomed refugees.”
Besides Bristolians demonstrating their commitment and support for refugees by braving the weather to join the walk, they also showed their compassion by contributing financially as £1,300 was raised on the day towards City of Sanctuary Transport Fund– a fund that provides bus tickets to destitute asylum seekers living in the city.
The walk started and finished with inspiring speeches from a range of figures. Those assembled heard from Sanctuary seekers; Dr Timothy Chambers OBE- HM Vice Lord Lieutenant of the City of Bristol; Helen Wilde, High Sheriff of Bristol; Revd Dr David Hoyle, The Dean, Bristol Cathedral; Mayor’s Representative on the event, Cllr Claire-Campion Smith, Cabinet Member for People; Thangam Debbonaire MP, Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group for Refugees; Molly Scott Cato, MEP for South West; Nigel Costley, TUC South West Regional Secretary; Abdul Samad Tariq, Vice Chair for Council of Bristol Mosques; Liaison officer for Islami Darasgah mosque; Izzy Finlay and Holly Rooke , Co-Presidents, University of Bristol Student Action for Refugees. All of those speaking were united in welcoming refugees and asylum seekers to the city.
Before the walk, Bristol City of Sanctuary chair Fr Richard McKay told of his hopes for the event; “This walk will send out a clear message that Bristol is a City of Sanctuary and that we welcome refugees and asylum seekers in our beautiful city. We are walking to show welcome to those seeking sanctuary in our city. We are walking to join with other proud Bristolians to say that we are a city of diversity that treasures human rights.”
The Ambling Band provided us with lively musical accompaniment and, as we reached College Green, the Dean welcomed all those involved in the walk into the Bristol Cathedral as a sanctuary from the rain. It provided a beautiful meeting point where participants were inspired and moved by a range of speakers who represented different communities from refugees, civic leaders, faith leaders, students and MPs. Thangham Debonnaire, Bristol West MP and Chair of the APPG on Refugees, spoke of the optimism that people like those in attendance provided her, taking solidarity in the “people who know that sanctuary should be for everyone. And that’s us. That’s Bristol.”
The event was closed by Yanet, a woman seeking sanctuary in the city, who told the packed Cathedral that “each and every one of us matters. Each and every one of us makes this city our city.” After the speeches, many headed to City Hall, where they were welcomed by Bristol Refugee Rights who hosted a meeting and panel discussion on resisting racism in the city.
You can view an excellent short film of the day produced by Silvia Jimenez Cruz here: